Posted in autism, Enneagram, Friendship

Merging

On my self-discovery journey, and my study of the enneagram, I have realized I have a “talent” for merging with others. Though this is also similar to a common autistic trait, particularly with females: “camouflaging.” I learned other’s behaviors and copied them to blend in. This is something I’ve done all my life and it appears as something common in autism and in enneagram type 9s, but for different reasons. I relate to both reasonings. In terms of autism, I mask or camouflage certain autistic traits and things that make me stand out and take on traits of people around me or I observe on TV, because I want to fit in and because I otherwise don’t know how to react in a situation. But in terms of enneagram, I merge with other’s opinions and behaviors because they seem good to me too and I don’t want to risk conflict or losing their friendship by saying something that could be potentially controversial.

With people I do not know well, I tend to be very skilled at observing them and end up mimicking their behaviors, almost by default. Though, as I get to know people better, I reveal more information, usually only after they’ve revealed similar information or we are close enough that I feel they will accept me for me and my quirky ways even if they don’t agree with me.

Since I am so good at merging with other people, I tend to end up with separate senses of self. I am a certain way with family vs. friends vs. work colleagues. And to some degree, this is normal. But I feel like the only way to true peace, I need to work to be a more united version of myself. I want to be able to express enough of my personality at work while still being a professional version of that person. I want to be able to share the inner workings of my mind with friends but still having fun with them and listening to them and understanding them. I want to share more of my growth with my family while still being easy going and the person they knew all along. I feel badly sometimes, because I feel like I’m not always 100% honest with people. Don’t get me wrong, I rarely outright lie to people, but I am more likely to withhold information if I feel like it will upset the balance or cause conflict or cause someone not to like me or to think less of me.

As I have gotten older, I have a stronger sense of self but I still find myself wanting to merge with other people’s opinions at times, especially in new friendships. Though, this has lead me to having to establish boundaries later on, when I realize I can not keep up the mask. For example, I usually burn out and can’t maintain the level of socialization that I had initially been able to handle.

Another related thought, I have discovered that I am not a fan of instant messaging. This is a somewhat new realization for me, because I can enjoy instant messaging for short periods of time but prolonged chatting can drain me… until I set boundaries that allow me to exit a conversation to attend to my own needs. Because that is what has happened to me in the past, I delayed attending to my own needs because a long distance partner or friend was chatting to me and sometimes they were going through a rough time which made my issues of needing to eat or clean the house or spend time offline seem less important. But I have learned that my presence matters, my opinions matter, my needs matter. Therefore, I need to take time to care for myself and attend to my needs and do things I want to do, so I can be a better me, a better friend, and a better human being.

Posted in anxiety, autism, Christianity and Faith, Enneagram

My autism diagnosis and other things.

I was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder in 2006. I received the diagnosis of “Asperger’s Syndrome” which is now under the combined diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorder. I am autistic. It feels so weird for me to say because when I was diagnosed, it was more commonly accepted to say “I have autism” but I am learning to embrace my autistic qualities. I am learning to uncover the traits I have been supressing.

I was an extremely quiet child. People described me as shy, though as I got older I realized it was not that I was shy. I think I was quiet because I processed information slower. I think my brain might process more sensory information so it can take longer to formulate the right response. Often when I am speaking about things that I have not rehearsed, my speech can be all over the place and chaotic, uncoordinated. I prefer typing or writing over talking a lot of the time. Though even with typing, I have trouble putting my thoughts down in a coherent way. Thankfully with typing, I can go back and edit my words and I can save things as a draft if I need to.

Along with autism, I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder – “generalized anxiety disorder” (GAD). I have always struggled with anxious feelings and often I do not know where the anxiety is coming from. I have started experimenting with certain “stimming” behaviors which have helped to reduce some anxiety or distract my brain from the anxiety. I’ve been experimenting with new stimming behaviors as well as identifying behaviors I was doing already but now realizing how they can be used to reduce anxiety sometimes. Some of these behaviors I have been doing to help reduce anxiety are: wiggling my toes and other movements with my feet, deep breathing, drawing simple pictures or writing random words, playing or cuddling my soft toys and dolls. I also like to pray and find focusing on my faith in God can help reduce the anxiety I experience.

Another diagnosis I received alongside autism and GAD was dysthymic disorder or dysthymia, which is a persistent depressive disorder, generally milder than clinical depression but it persists which can be frustrating. I still get some mild, yet stubborn, depression from time to time and then other times I can be extremely positive and happy. It’s strange. Sometimes it feels like a different person when I look back at those times.

I was also diagnosed with a mild language use issue because my speech can be awkward at times. I think maybe I did not get as much practice with it when I was younger because I was so quiet. Now, I think it may have more to do with slower processing of thoughts to speech so it comes around more awkward at times.

As I have been re-discovering myself, at times it feels more freeing and and other times I feel more uncomfortable, as I face my issues head on. I believe this is a big part of my growth story, but I have to experience discomfort to grow and mature. I have also been studying the enneagram a lot and learning more about the type 9 enneagram which I believe I am, I realize how my motivations and fears have worked with the struggles I have with autism. I mask my eccentricities because I want peace with those around me. I don’t want to be the reason for any conflict. Though recently, I have realized that sometimes this creates artificial peace and I am working on moving through some conflicts to uncover my true emotions and feelings and praying for wisdom for what I can do to bring about complete peace, at least in some small ways for now.

Posted in autism

As We See It – New show on Prime Video

I recently finished watching the first season of “As We See It,” a new show on Amazon’s Prime video featuring three young adult roommates on the autistic spectrum! I really enjoyed it. I really wanted to write about it.

While I did not identify strongly with the characters, I enjoyed the diversity of the cast. It really helps portray struggles that young adults with autism may face as they face additional challenges to becoming independent adults! I also am so excited when I learned that the main characters are also played by autistic adults and many others on the cast and crew are autistic. As an autistic woman, this made me so excited to see. I am always so happy to see portrayal of women on the spectrum, even though the autistic lady in the series is more outgoing than me. I really enjoyed her portrayal, her romanticizing of relationships is something I can identify with. And she worked at Arby’s when I worked at fast food restaurants too. Though as a more quiet woman with autism, I did not have the emotional outbursts she had and was able to maintain a job there for longer.

My masking skills have been decent, but not perfect, though I grew up with an understanding that weird was good. But I still felt I had to mask, in particular at school and later at work. I would not have been able to mask all day so I usually let loose at home a lot more. And when I got my diagnosis at around age 16, I still did not really understand and a lot of the information out there was about learning skills to fit into society, and I did not really understand that I had different sensory needs than other people.

As I have gotten older, I have actually realized more of the things that make me autistic. I guess we just get to know ourselves better as we get older. It reminds me of when I was 18 or 19 and I had an email exchange with a friend with autism who was around 10 years older than me, and he told me how it got better when he got older. And I think I agree. I definitely feel like I have a better sense of self these days, though there are also more things I am responsible for now! And with the whole pandemic thing on top of normal getting older stuff, I feel more exhausted more often!

Back to the show I started talking about at the beginning of this post… If you want to check out this new show please see the link below or search for “As we see it” on Amazon Prime video! Please leave a comment if you have watched it and what you think of it or if you relate to any of the characters. I hope there is a season 2 for sure, I am so excited to see where they take this series!

https://www.primevideo.com/detail/0QINBG3T0DMVOH7JUW2RWI7E2L/ref=atv_dp_share_cu_r

Posted in anxiety, autism

Everyone struggles

One thought that has been on my mind recently is the idea that everyone struggles. Actually, this thought comes to my mind often, keeps me humble and keeps me quiet about my own struggles. When I am about to mention my struggles, I try to remember that everyone struggles with certain things. Also, I do not want people to limit what I can do. So I want to keep trying to overcome my difficulties in secret. Though I think a lot of people are like this… we all have our internal struggles, our things that we are overcoming, which are not apparent on the outside. Even more so for those of us with an invisible disability like autism. Though we can never know how much someone struggles with a task and does not admit to. So it is difficult to ask for help for things if we think everyone struggles with. On one hand, I want to talk about sensory difficulties or my inability to make decisions or my overwhelming crushing anxiety or depressive feelings, but then I stop myself… because discussing my own issues can come across selfish and also makes me feel vulnerable. I would rather people think I can handle it. I want to portray someone who has everything under control. That is one of my masks. Hiding my vulnerabilities and difficulties to appear in control. Not asking for help too much. I don’t want others to think of me as a burden or less capable. I think most people have this to an extent. Not everyone has the same difficulties but I can’t really truly know what other people struggle with. Everyone struggles sometimes. It is good to remember that so we can try our best to be understanding in every situation.

Posted in autism

I am autistic but my desire to blend in holds me back from being an autism self advocate

Lately, the idea has been growing stronger and stronger on my mind… the idea that I want to share my personal experiences as a woman with autism spectrum disorder. I see people around me, on social media, sharing their experiences being on the spectrum. There is SO MUCH MORE knowledge about how autism presents in women nowadays. So much more than when I was first diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome back in 2006. Asperger’s Syndrome was on the Autism Spectrum, and now after new DSM diagnostic criteria was released recently, all diagnoses of Asperger’s Syndrome are simply Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD.

One issue I struggle with is the terminology. Recently, there has been a switch in how people refer to autistic people or is it people with autism. So I understand why autistic people is preferred now because Autism is so linked with our identity and is not a disease or something that needs to be cured. However, I have been struggling with identifying as an autistic person. Because for so many years, I have been trying to fit in with those around me.

I also find it difficult to make a fuss. I talk myself down from self identifying to people, because I do not want them to see me differently… and even more so, I do not want them to see me as incapable of tasks because of Autism. I feel very vulnerable of my autistic traits and so I have learned to hide them. Though, these days, I am trying to “unmask” and slowly re-discover the traits that I have been trying to hide. Because I realized one day, I can not hide everything, and my masking and hiding of traits, it was causing me problems in my life.

I want to start to use this blog to discuss the autistic traits I see in myself, how I have coped with these traits, I want to reflect on how successful the coping strategies have been, and make a plan going forward if I should try something different that may be more helpful.

Posted in anxiety, autism, Friendship

My experience with friendship

The topic of friendship has been on my mind a lot lately. Early last year, I made a new friend. We got really close. We bonded over our love of plushies, and soon learned we had other things in common, such as having anxiety, autism, and our Christian faith. She is a very valuable part of my life. We started chatting nearly every day, with breaks in between. I enjoyed it. Though the past little while, I have been become to feel very exhausted with the constant chatting. As much as I still enjoyed it, it started to interfere with other things I needed to get done. I begun to feel overwhelmed with everything. Especially with the addition of family traumas and illnesses and general covid-19 exhaustion.

This has caused me to take a step back from the friendship. We are still friends but I have taken a step back from feeling like I need to say hi every day. I just let the message sit there until I have the mental and emotional energy to invest in taking the time to read it and respond to it.

This has allowed me time to think about and compare this to past moments of friendship in my life. When I was younger, I did not have many friends. I grew up the middle child of three girls, all relatively close in age, so they were like built in friends even though we also got on each others nerves a lot growing up. There were times that I felt like they were spending time without me. I think those times were times I most noticed how different I was, even though I did not yet know about autism.

In early elementary school, I kind of thought of all the girls in my class being my friend. In particular, certain girls. Or really any girl who would talk to me nicely. I had a friend in kindergarten and grade 1 who I knew from pre-school. As I got older, more girls would include me or try to include me in their games or activities at lunch and recess time. I did not really understand the rules of socializing and did not approach other girls myself, so I would walk around the school by myself if they did not approach me.

As I got older in grade 5 and 6, I had more of a defined group of friends and also soon learned that not all the girls in my grade got along with each other, and I had to pick a side. I could not just be friends with anyone who was “nice” to me. Though, maybe they were just playing nice to me. I could not really tell. I got my first official “best friend” in grade 6. We would hang out with each other all the time, doing crafts, and going for walks, playing with our gerbils…. It was nice.

Though, I usually felt I had to hide parts of myself when around friends. Until I felt like they would accept that part of me, I did not want to risk being vulnerable around them. When I got to grade 7, I met new friends and reconnected with some old ones at my new school. In high school, I started to get more comfortable having my own interests. Although, I still got nervous to share my new interests with others until I learned they liked them too. I had an amazing group of friends in high school, I felt I could be myself around them for the most part. Though there was a time when I started to feel like I wanted to share more of myself but nervous how they would take it. The biggest part of myself that I wanted to share but that I was nervous to share was when I got my autism diagnosis (Asperger’s Syndrome, in addition to Generalized anxiety disorder, Dysthymia and a mild language use disorder). I eventually blurted it out to them… though I do not know if they remember it as I do not talk about it much. I still count them as friends today even though we see each other maybe once a year, and now that two of them are moved further away, it may be even less than that going forward.

Friendship is so difficult for me. I have not developed good boundaries when it comes to friends. I tend to listen listen listen to friends and not say my own things because I am nervous how they will take it. There are times I have shared vulnerabilities and later feel very anxious because I revealed too much about myself. Even if they were very supportive of what I said, I might still feel like I revealed too much. But in particular, if I find they may not have understood me completely.

My preferred method of saying things is through the written word so I can express my whole thought. I like having time to think of what I am going to say.. which is why instant messaging type of chatting is difficult for me. I need time to think of what I will say and sometimes I need to give it a day to rest before responding again. I am still learning about myself and what works for me. Life is a journey of constantly re-evaluating what works for me and others. I want to be an advocate for autism but also am nervous about being too vocal about my diagnosis. I want to inspire others but also do not want all the attention.

In other news… we got much needed rain today!! After one of the hottest summers, we got our first major heat wave back in late June and July was super dry, barely any rain, and now we got much needed rain and the temperature is less than 20 degrees Celsius! WOOHOO!!! Praise God!

That’s all for now. Have a great day. – Heather

Posted in anxiety, autism

Ruminating

To ruminate is to think deeply about something. I do this a lot. I do this almost every time after I have an unusual social situation, usually where chit chat is involved. For example, yesterday evening when I accepted a food delivery from a Skip the Dishes driver. I worry if I came off rude or awkward. I worry about situations where I might be misunderstood. I am sure everyone does it to some degree but some people do it more than others.

Eventually I can let it go. Although, usually it is still at the back of my mind, ready to be recalled when I want to schedule another delivery or whatever. I realize, though, that other people are not as focused on me as I think. As I get older, I am more and more comfortable in my own skin and more comfortable with my own weirdness and not caring of how I look to other people. We are all a little weird. Almost everyone is just trying to blend in, but naturally will be weird with their closest, trusted people and companions.

LET’s MAKE WEIRD the NEW NORMAL! 🙂

Posted in autism

How does autism affect me?

Hi all,

I have an autistic spectrum disorder. When I was 16, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Asperger’s Syndrome is no longer a diagnosis in the newest DSM categories because it is all now under Autism spectrum disorder. It doesn’t mean Asperger’s Syndrome ceases to exist – it just means that we are using different language to describe what it is. Autism is a spectrum, no person with Autism is the same as any other person with Autism.

It is so difficult sometimes to know what things are autism and what things are normal. It all feels normal to me. What is normal anyway? Over the past few years, I have been on a journey of self-discovery and I am so much more comfortable in my own skin and with who I am today than I was at 16 years old.

Some days are better than others though. Sometimes I manage to say the right things and feel like I am masking any oddness, and other times I say something that comes across awkward or weird.

In addition to being on the autism spectrum disorder, I am an introvert, I have an anxiety disorder, I have struggled with mild depression, and have some mild language use issues. Growing up, I was an observer, also selectively mute. When I was at school, I was extremely shy and would barely speak and when I did, my voice was often very soft and whisper like. I was so conscious of following the rules, but the rules were not always clear.

As I got older, the rules became more clear, and I had a lot more knowledge to guide my decisions. Though I am still very indecisive. I think my indecision is brought on because I over think. When I am faced with a decision, I tend to start thinking of what might happen in which scenario. Then I fixate on certain outcomes, which means I temporarily forget that there may be other possible outcomes. I over think to the point that I freeze and can not make a decision because I can not figure out the right decision. It is especially difficult when the decision is something that is supposed to be for fun but I am taking it too seriously. I worry about making a decision that someone else might not like.

Lately with this Covid-19 corona virus pandemic, this has affected me in new ways. For example, I just came back from the grocery store. There is only one entrance now, to control how many people are in the store. Thankfully, it was not too busy at the time I went, so I did not have to wait in a line today. I got nervous initially because I did not see any baskets by the entrance. I also saw an employee manning a “sanitation” station and I wondered, What am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to sanitize my basket when I get it or when I leave the store afterwards? Or is am I supposed to leave my basket there so he can sanitize it? Or is it just to make us feel safer? I had fully expected to see sanitizer available to wipe down the basket or for hands but I am always confused when to use it. I do not want to look awkward in my attempt to use it. What if I use it wrong? I am so anxious all the time of doing something wrong, worrying that people will judge me if I am doing something the wrong way. It is why I prefer to observe first. This is a new situation. I used to be able to go to the grocery store knowing what to expect. So I got used to it. It still caused me anxiety some times. But this is causing me anxiety every time. AND to top it all off, this grocery store is always out of all paper products!! I need to get more toilet paper and paper towel. I will try going out later today or tomorrow or the next day to another store and hope for the best.

Okay, that is all I have to say for today. That was a lot. But I haven’t wrote anything down for awhile and it always so much easier to type and I have a lot of thoughts on my mind. I want to write a book about a girl on the autism spectrum but I am not sure what ideas I have for it. I was thinking maybe of writing a fan fiction but then now realizing maybe I should just write a new original story.

Take care! ~ Heather

Posted in autism

A Bride with Autism

I got married two weeks ago! I have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome over 10 years ago, as a teenager. For the most part I feel like a normal human being and try to fly under the radar and not draw attention to myself.

A wedding is all about the bride and groom, especially – as so many people told me – the bride. So it can be very difficult for a lady with ASD and an anxiety disorder as well. It was especially difficult to plan a wedding alongside a full-time job, and also trying to have time to relax and recharge. It really helped me and my partner to plan a very small wedding with only our immediate families. We had a lot of help and offers of help from our families.